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The Peace in Aceh: The Role of Democracy for Conflict Resolution

The Peace in Aceh: The Role of Democracy for Conflict Resolution

Colloquium with Gyda Sindre, UCLA and University of Oslo Departments of Political Science

Tuesday, May 05, 2009
3:30 PM - 5:00 PM
10383 Bunche Hall
UCLA Campus
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Photo: Irwandi Yusuf, the elected governor, during his inauguration speech in Banda Aceh in 2006.  Photo credit: Azizi Vana

In August 2005, the thirty-year long conflict in Indonesia’s Aceh-province was brought to an end with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the rebel group, GAM, and the Indonesian government. The agreement contained important provisions for local democratization and increased self-determination for the Acehnese over their political and economic resources within the unitary Indonesian state. The former rebels are central figures in bringing about and securing both peace and democracy in the region. In the first round of local elections where former rebels were allowed to participate in 2006, GAM members won a majority of positions as district heads and mayors, including the position of governor. In the upcoming election for the legislatures, which takes place in April 2009, the political stakes for GAM as central figures in Aceh’s political future are high.

This talk moves beyond the focus on successful mediation by international actors or the role of the 2004 tsunami-disaster in analyzing and understanding the successful peace process in Aceh. Instead, peace in Aceh is analyzed with reference to the significant transformation of the Indonesian state since the fall of Suharto in 1998 on the one hand, and the political transformation of GAM on the other. In the context of decentralization and democratization, the separatist strategy was undermined, paving the way for a political solution to the conflict. With these shifts in mind, the question remains whether Aceh will fare better or worse than other Indonesian provinces as far as democracy is concerned.

Gyda Sindre is a visiting scholar in the UCLA Political Science Department from the University of Oslo where she is a PhD candidate in political science and a lecturer in development studies and political science. She holds an MPhil in Political Science from the University of Oslo and a BA in Indonesian and Politics from SOAS. Her PhD project is entitled “Conflict resolution and democratization: the political transformation of armed insurgency movements in Aceh and Sri Lanka.” She spent several months in Aceh interviewing GAM leadership, commanders, soldiers, and key actors in the Acehnese civil society movement and well as international actors involved in the peace process. She has previously written on the topic of political violence and democracy in Indonesia.

Cost : Free and open to the public.


Sponsor(s): Center for Southeast Asian Studies